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C. H: BECKER, Ph.D. 







Harper's Library of Living Thought 



The subject from different points of view : limits o 

The nature of the subject : the historical points 
connection between Christianity and Islam . 

A. Christianity and the rise of Islam : 

i. Muhammed and his contemporaries . 

2. The influence of Christianity upon the de- 

velopment of Muhammed . . .11 

3. Muhammed's knowledge of Christianity . 14 

4. The position of Christians under Muham 

medanism 28 

B. The similarity of Christian and Muhammedan 

metaphysics during the middle ages : 

1. The means and direction by which Christian 

influence affected Islam . . . .34 

2. The penetration of daily life by the spirit 

of religion ; asceticism, contradictions 
and influences affecting the development 
of a clerical class and the theory of 
marriage 39 

3. The theory of life in general with reference 

to the doctrine of immortality . . -55 

4. The attitude of religion towards the State, 

economic life, society, etc. . . .64 

5. The permanent importance to Islam of these 

influences : the doctrine of duties . . 77 


*' 6. Ritual 80 

7. Mysticism and the worship of saints • . 83 

8. Dogma and the development of scholasticism 89 
C. The influence of Islam upon Christianity : 

The manner in which this influence operated, 
and the explanation of the superiority of 

Islam 94 

The influence of Muhammedan philosophy . 98 
The new world of European Christendom and 

the modern East 104 

Conclusion. The historical growth of religion . . 105 
Bibliography no 


A COMPARISON of Christianity with 
Muhammedanism or with any other 
religion must be preceded by a statement 
of the objects with which such comparison 
is undertaken, for the possibilities which 
lie in this direction are numerous. The 
missionary, for instance, may consider that 
a knowledge of the similarities of these 
religions would increase the efficacy of his 
proselytising work : his purpose would 
thus be wholly practical. The ecclesiasti- 
cally minded Christian, already convinced 
of the superiority of his own religion, will 
be chiefly anxious to secure scientific 
proof of the fact : the study of compara- 
tive religion from this point of view was 
once a popular branch of apologetics and is 
by no means out of favour at the present 


day. Again, the inquirer whose historical 
perspective is undisturbed by ecclesiastical 
considerations, will approach the subject 
with somewhat different interests. He will 
expect the comparison to provide him 
with a clear view of the influence which 
Christianity has exerted upon other religions 
or has itself received from them : or he 
may hope by comparing the general develop- 
ment of special religious systems to gain a 
clearer insight into the growth of Christian- 
ity. Hence the object of such comparisons 
is to trace the course of analogous develop- 
ments and the interaction of influence and 
so to increase the knowledge of religion in 
general or of our own religion in particular. 
A world-religion, such as Christianity, is 
a highly complex structure and the evolu- 
tion of such a system of belief is best under- 
stood by examining a religion to which 
we have not been bound by a thousand 
ties from the earliest days of our lives. If 
we take an alien religion as our subject of 


investigation, we shall not shrink from the 
consequences of the historical method : 
whereas, when we criticise Christianity, 
we are often unable to see the falsity of 
the pre-suppositions which we necessarily 
bring to the task of inquiry : our minds 
follow the doctrines of Christianity, even 
as our bodies perform their functions — in 
complete unconsciousness. At the same 
time we possess a very considerable know- 
ledge of the development of Christianity, 
and this we owe largely to the help of 
analogy. Especially instructive is the com- 
parison between Christianity and Buddhism. 
No less interesting are the discoveries to be 
attained by an inquiry into the develop- 
ment of Muhammedanism : here we can 
see the growth of tradition proceeding in 
the full light of historical criticism. We 
see the plain man, Muhammed, expressly 
declaring in the Qoran that he cannot per- 
form miracles, yet gradually becoming a 
miracle worker and indeed the greatest of 


his class : he professes to be nothing more 
than a mortal man : he becomes the chief 
mediator between man and God. The 
scanty memorials of the man become 
voluminous biographies of the saint and 
increase from generation to generation. 

Yet more remarkable is the fact that his 
utterances, his logia, if we may use the term, 
some few of which are certainly genuine, 
increase from year to year and form a 
large collection which is critically sifted and 
expounded. The aspirations of mankind 
attribute to him such words of the New 
Testament and of Greek philosophers as 
were especially popular or seemed worthy of 
Muhammed; the teaching also of the new 
ecclesiastical schools was invariably ex- 
pressed in the form of proverbial utterances 
attributed to Muhammed, and these are now 
without exception regarded as authentic 
by the modern Moslem. In this way 
opinions often contradictory are covered by 
Muhammed's authority. 


The traditions concerning Jesus offer 
an analogy. Our Gospels, for instance, 
relate the beautiful story of the plucking 
of the ears of corn on the Sabbath, with its 
famous moral application, " The Sabbath 
was made for man, and not man for the 
Sabbath." A Christian papyrus has been 
discovered which represents Jesus as ex- 
plaining the sanctity of the Sabbath from 
the Judaeo-Christian point of view. " If ye 
keep not the Sabbath holy, ye shall not 
see the Father," is the statement in an un- 
canonical Gospel. In early Christian litera- 
ture, contradictory sayings of Jesus are also 
to be found. Doubtless here, as in Muham- 
medan tradition, the problem originally was, 
what is to be my action in this or that 
question of practical life : answer is given 
in accordance with the religious attitude of 
the inquirer and Jesus and Muhammed are 
made to lend their authority to the teaching. 
Traditional literary form is then regarded 
as historical by later believers. 


Examples of this kind might be multi- 
plied, but enough has been said to show 
that much and, to some extent, new light 
may be thrown upon the development of 
Christian tradition, by an examination of 
Muhammedanism which rose from similar 
soil but a few centuries later, while its 
traditional developments have been much 
more completely preserved. 

Such analogies as these can be found, 
however, in any of the world-religions, and 
we propose to devote our attention more 
particularly to the influences which Chris- 
tianity and Islam exerted directly upon one 
another. While Muhammedanism has bor- 
rowed from its hereditary foe, it has also 
repaid part of the debt. By the very fact 
of its historical position Islam was at first 
indebted to Christianity ; but in the de- 
.^ partment of Christian philosophy, it has 
also exerted its own influence. This in- 
fluence cannot be compared with that of 
Greek or Jewish thought upon Christian 


speculation : Christian philosophy, as a 
metaphysical theory of existence, was how- 
ever strongly influenced by Arabian thought 
before the outset of the Reformation. On 
the other hand the influence of Christianity 
upon Islam — and also upon Muhammed, 
though he owed more to Jewish thought — 
was so extensive that the coincidence of 
ideas upon the most important meta- 
physical questions is positively amazing. 

There is a widespread belief even at the 
present day that Islam was a complete 
novelty and that the religion and culture 
of the Muhammedan world were wholly 
alien to Western medievalism. Such views 
are entirely false ; during the Middle Ages 
Muhammedanism and Western culture were 
inspired by the same spirit. The fact has 
been obscured by the contrast between the 
two religions whose differences have been 
constantly exaggerated and by dissimilari- 
ties of language and nationality. To re- 
trace in full detail the close connection 


which unites Christianity and Islam would 
be the work of years. Within the scope of 
the present volume, all that can be done is 
to explain the points of contact between 
Christian and Muhammedan theories of 
life and religion. Such is the object of the 
following pages. We shall first treat of 
Muhammed personally, because his rise as 
a religious force will explain the possibility 
of later developments. 

This statement also explains the sense 
in which we shall use the term Christianity. 
Muhammedanism has no connection with 
post-Reformation Christianity and meets 
it only in the mission field. Practical 
questions there arise which lie beyond the 
limits of our subject, as we have already 
indicated. Our interests are concerned 
with the mediaeval Church, when Christianity 
first imposed its ideas upon Muhammedan- 
ism at the time of its rise in the East, and 
afterwards received a material extension 
of its own horizon through the rapid progress 


of its protege. Our task is to analyse and 
explain these special relations between the 
two systems of thought. 

The religion now known as Islam is as 
near to the preaching of Muhammed or as 
remote from it, as modern Catholicism or 
Protestant Christianity is at variance or in 
harmony with the teaching of Jesus. The 
simple beliefs of the prophet and his con- 
temporaries are separated by a long course 
of development from the complicated religi- 
ous system in its unity and diversity which 
Islam now presents to us. The course of 
this development was greatly influenced 
by Christianity, but Christian ideas had 
been operative upon Muhammed's eager 
intellectual life at an even earlier date. We 
must attempt to realise the working of 
his mind, if we are to gain a comprehension 
of the original position of Islam with regard 
to Christianity. The task is not so difficult 
in Muhammed's case as in that of others 


who have founded religious systems : we 
have records of. his philosophical views, 
important even though fragmentary, while 
vivid descriptions of his experiences have 
been transmitted to us in his own words, 
which have escaped the modifying influence 
of tradition at second hand. Muhammed 
had an indefinite idea of the word of God 
as known to him from other religions. 
He was unable to realise this idea effectively 
except as an immediate revelation ; hence 
throughout the Qoran he represents God 
as speaking in the first person and himself 
appears as the interlocutor. Even direct 
commands to the congregation are intro- 
duced by the stereotyped " speak " ; it 
was of primary importance that the Qoran 
should be regarded as God's word and not 
as man's. This fact largely contributed to 
secure an uncontaminated transmission of 
the text, which seems also to have been 
left by Muhammed himself in definite form. 
Its intentional obscurity of expression does 


not facilitate the task of the inquirer, but it 
provides, none the less, considerable infor- 
mation concerning the religious progress of 
its author. Here we are upon firmer ground 
than when we attempt to describe Muham- 
med's outward life, the first half of which is 
wrapped in obscurity no less profound than 
that which veils the youth of the Founder of 

Muhammed's contemporaries lived amid 
religious indifference. The majority of the 
Arabs were heathen and their religious 
aspirations were satisfied by local cults of 
the Old Semitic character. They may have 
preserved the religious institutions of the 
great South Arabian civilisation, which 
was then in a state of decadence ; the 
beginnings of Islam may also have been 
influenced by the ideas of this civilisation, 
which research is only now revealing to us : 
but these points must remain undecided 
for the time being. South Arabian civilisa- 
tion was certainly not confined to the 


South, nor could an organised township 
such as Mecca remain outside its sphere of 
influence : but the scanty information 
which has reached us concerning the religious 
life of the Arabs anterior to Islam might 
also be explained by supposing them to 
have followed a similar course of develop- 
ment. In any case, it is advisable to 
reserve judgment until documentary proof 
can replace ingenious conjecture. The 
difficulty of the problem is increased by 
the fact that Jewish and especially Christian 
ideas penetrated from the South and that 
their influence cannot be estimated. The 
important point for us to consider is the 
existence of Christianity in Southern Arabia 
before the Muhammedan period. Nor was 
the South its only starting-point : Christian 
doctrine came to Arabia from the North, 
from Syria and Babylonia, and numerous 
conversions, for the most part of whole 
tribes, were made. On the frontiers also 
Arabian merchants came into continual 



contact with Christianity and foreign mer- 
chants of the Christian faith could be found 
throughout Arabia. But for the Arabian 
migration and the simultaneous foundation 
of a new Arabian religion, there is no doubt 
that the whole peninsula would have been 
speedily converted to Christianity. 

The chief rival of Christianity was Juda- 
ism, which was represented in Northern as in 
Southern Arabia by strong colonies of Jews, 
who made proselytes, although their strict 
ritualism was uncongenial to the Arab 
temperament which preferred conversion to 
Christianity (naturally only as a matter of 
form). In addition to Jewish, Christian, 
and Old Semitic influences, Zoroastrian 
ideas and customs were also known in 
Arabia, as is likely enough in view of the 
proximity of the Persian empire. 

These various elements aroused in Mu- 
hammed's mind a vague idea of religion. 
His experience was that of the eighteenth- 
century theologians who suddenly observed 


that Christianity was but one of many very 
similar and intelligible religions, and thus 
inevitably conceived the idea of a pure and 
natural religious system fundamental to all 
others. Judaism and Christianity were the 
only religions which forced themselves 
upon Muhammed's consciousness and with 
the general characteristics of which he was 
acquainted. He never read any part of the 
Old or New Testament : his references to 
Christianity show that his knowledge of the 
Bible was derived from hearsay and that his 
informants were not representative of the 
great religious sects : Muhammed's ac- 
count of Jesus and His work, as given in 
the Qoran, is based upon the apocryphal 
accretions which grew round the Christian 

When Muhammed proceeded to compare 

the great religions of the Old and New 

Testaments with the superficial pietism of 

his own compatriots, he was especially im- 



pressed with the seriousness of the Hebrews 
and Christians which contrasted strongly 
with the indifference of the heathen Arabs. 
The Arab was familiar with the conception 
of an almighty God, and this idea had not 
been obscured by the worship of trees, 
stones, fire and the heavenly bodies : but his 
reverence for this God was somewhat im- 
personal and he felt no instinct to approach 
Him, unless he had some hopes or fears to 
satisfy. The idea of a reckoning between 
man and God was alien to the Arab mind. 
Christian and Jewish influence became 
operative upon Muhammed with reference 
to this special point. The idea of the day 
of judgment, when an account of earthly 
deeds and misdeeds will be required, when 
the joys of Paradise will be opened to the 
good and the bad will be cast into the fiery 
abyss, such was the great idea, which sud- 
denly filled Muhammed's mind and dispelled 
the indifference begotten of routine and 
stirred his mental powers. 


Polytheism was incompatible with the 
idea of God as a judge supreme and righte- 
ous, but yet merciful. Thus monotheism 
was indissolubly connected with Muham- 
med's first religious impulses, though the 
dogma had not assumed the polemical form 
in which it afterwards confronted the old 
Arabian and Christian beliefs. But a mind 
stirred by religious emotion only rose to 
the height of prophetic power after a long 
course of development which human know- 
ledge can but dimly surmise. Christianity 
and Judaism had their sacred books which 
the founders of these religions had pro- 
duced. In them were the words of God, 
transmitted through Moses to the Jews and 
through Jesus to the Christians. Jesus and 
Moses had been God's ambassadors to their 
peoples. Who then could bring to the 
Arabs the glad tidings which should guide 
them to the happy fields of Paradise ? 
Among primitive peoples God is regarded 
as very near to man. The Arabs had their 


fortune-tellers and augurs who cast lots 
before God and explained His will in 
mysterious rhythmical utterances. Muham- 
med was at first more intimately connected 
with this class of Arab fortune-tellers than is 
usually supposed. The best proof of the fact 
is the vehemence with which he repudiates 
all comparison between these fortune-tellers 
and himself, even as early Christian apolo- 
getics and polemics attacked the rival cults 
of the later classical world, which possessed 
forms of ritual akin to those observed by 
Christianity. The existence of a fortune- 
telling class among the Arabs shows that 
Muhammed may well have been endowed 
with psychological tendencies which only 
awaited the vivifying influence of Judaism 
and Christianity to emerge as the prophetic 
impulse forcing him to stand forth in public 
and to stir the people from their indifference: 
" Be ye converted, for the day of judgment 
is at hand : God has declared it unto me, as 
he declared it unto Moses and Jesus. I am 
c 17 


the apostle of God to you, Arabs. Salva- 
tion is yours only if ye submit to the will of 
God preached by me." This act of submis- 
sion Muhammed calls Islam. Thus at the 
hour of Islam's birth, before its founder 
had proclaimed his ideas, the influence 
of Christianity is indisputable. It was 
this influence which made of the Arab 
seer and inspired prophet, the apostle of 

Muhammed regarded Judaism and Chris- 
tianity as religious movements purely na- 
tional in character. God in His mercy had 
announced His will to different nations 
through His prophets. As God's word had 
been interpreted for the Jews and for the 
Christians, so there was to be a special 
interpretation for the benefit of the Arabs. 
These interpretations were naturally identi- 
cal in manner and differed only as regards 
place and time. Muhammed had heard of 
the Jewish Messiah and of the Christian 
Paraclete, whom, however, he failed to 


identify with the Holy Ghost and he applied 
to himself the allusions to one who should 
come after Moses and Jesus. Thus in the 
Qoran 61. 6 we read, " Jesus, the Son of 
Mary, said : Children of Israel, I am God's 
apostle to you. I confirm in your hands 
the Thora (the law) and I announce the 
coming of another apostle after me whose 
name is Ahmed.'*' Ahmed is the equiva- 
lent of Muhammed. The verse has been 
variously interpreted and even rejected 
as an interpolation : but its authenticity 
is attested by its perfect correspond- 
ence with what we know of Muhammed's 

To trace in detail the development of his 
attitude towards Christianity is a more 
difficult task than to discover the growth 
of his views upon Judaism ; probably he 
pursued a similar course in either case. At 
first he assumed the identity of the two 
religions with one another and with his own 
doctrine ; afterwards he regarded them as 


advancing by gradations. Adam, Abraham, 
Moses, Jesus, and Muhammed, these in his 
opinion were the chief stages in the divine 
scheme of salvation. Each was respectively 
confirmed or abolished by the revelation 
which followed it, nor is this theory of 
Muhammed's shaken by the fact that each 
revelation was given to a different nation. 
He regards all preceding prophets in the light 
of his own personality. They were all sent 
to people who refused them a hearing at 
the moment. Punishment follows and the 
prophet finds a body of believers elsewhere. 
Thfese temporary punishments are confused 
with the final Judgment ; in fact Muham- 
med's system was not clearly thought out. 
The several prophets were but men, whose 
earthly careers were necessarily crowned 
with triumph : hence the crucifixion of 
Jesus is a malicious invention of the Jews, 
who in reality crucified some other sufferer, 
while Jesus entered the divine glory. Thus 
Muhammed has no idea of the importance 


of the Crucifixion to the Christian Church, 
as is shown by his treatment of it as a Jewish 
falsehood. In fact, he develops the habit 
of characterising as false any statement in 
contradiction with his ideas, and this 
tendency is especially obvious in his deal- 
ings with Judaism, of which he gained a 
more intimate knowledge. At first he 
would refer sceptics to Christian and Jewish 
doctrine for confirmation of his own teach- 
ing. The fact that with no knowledge of 
the Old or New Testament, he had pro- 
claimed doctrines materially similar and 
the fact that these Scriptures referred to 
himself, were proofs of his inspired power, 
let doubters say what they would. A 
closer acquaintance with these Scriptures 
showed him that the divergencies which 
he stigmatised as falsifications denoted in 
reality vast doctrinal differences. 

<In order to understand Muhammed's 
attitude towards Christianity, we will ex- 


amine in greater detail his view of this 
religion, the portions of it which he accepted 
or which he rejected as unauthentic. In 
the first place he must have regarded the 
Trinity as repugnant to reason : he con- 
sidered the Christian Trinity as consisting 
of God the Father, Mary the Mother of God, 
and Jesus the Son of God. In the Qoran, 
God says, " Hast thou, Jesus, said to men, 
Regard me and my mother as Gods by the 
side of God ? " Jesus replies, " I will say 
nothing but the truth. I have but preached, 
Pray to God, who is my Lord and your 
Lord " (5. 116, f). Hence it has been inferred 
that Muhammed's knowledge of Christianity 
was derived from some particular Christian 
sect, such as the Tritheists or the Arab 
female sect of the Collyridians who wor- 
shipped the Virgin Mary with exaggerated 
reverence and assigned divine honours to 
her. It is also possible that we have here a 
development of some Gnostic conception 
which regarded the Holy Ghost as of femi- 


nine gender, as Semites would do ; * in- 
stances of this change are to be found in the 
well-known Hymn of the Soul in the Acts 
of Thomas, in the Gospel to the Egyptians 
and elsewhere. I am inclined, however, to 
think it more probable that Muhammed 
had heard of Mariolatry and of the " mother 
of God," a title which then was a highly 
popular catchword, and that the apotheosis 
of Jesus was known to him and also the 
doctrine of the Trinity by name. Further 
than this his knowledge did not extend ; 
although he knows the Holy Ghost and 
identifies him with Jesus, none the less his 
primitive reasoning, under the influence of 
many old beliefs, explained the mysterious 
triad of the Trinity as husband, wife, and 
son. This fact is enough to prove that his 
theory of Christianity was formed by com- 
bining isolated scraps of information and 
that he cannot have had any direct instruc- 

* The word for " Spirit" is of the feminine gender 
in the Semitic languages. 



tion from a Christian knowing the outlines 
of his faith. 

Muhammed must also have denied the 
divinity of Christ : this is an obvious 
result of the course of mental development 
which we have described and of his char- 
acteristically Semitic theory of the nature 
of God. To him, God is one, never begetting 
and never begotten. Denying the divinity 
of Jesus, Muhammed naturally denies the 
redemption through the Cross and also the 
fact of the Crucifixion. Yet, strangely 
enough he accepted the miraculous birth ; 
nor did he hesitate to provide this purely 
human Jesus with all miraculous attributes ; 
these were a proof of his divine commission, 
and marvellous details of this nature 
aroused the interest of his hearers. 

Mary the sister of Ahron — an obvious 
confusion with the Old Testament Miriam — 
had been devoted to the service of God by 
her mother's vow, and lives in the temple 
under the guardianship of Zacharias, to 


whom a later heir is born in answer to his 
prayers, namely John, the forerunner of 
the Holy Ghost. The birth is announced 
to Mary and she brings forth Jesus under a 
palm-tree, near which is a running spring 
and by the dates of which she is fed. On 
her return home she is received with re- 
proaches by her family but merely points 
in reply to the new-born babe, who suddenly 
speaks from his cradle, asserting that he is 
the prophet of God. Afterwards Jesus 
performs all kinds of miracles, forms birds 
out of clay and makes them fly, heals the 
blind and lepers, raises the dead, etc., and 
even brings down from heaven a table 
ready spread. The Jews will not believe 
him, but the youth follow him. He is not 
killed, but translated to God. Christians 
are not agreed upon the manner of his 
death and the Jews have invented the story 
of the Crucifixion. 

Muhammed's knowledge of Christianity 
thus consists of certain isolated details, partly 


apocryphal, partly canonical, together with 
a hazy idea of the fundamental dogmas. 
Thus the influence of Christianity upon him 
was entirely indirect. The Muhammedan 
movement at its outset was influenced not 
by the real Christianity of the time but by 
a Christianity which Muhammed criticised 
in certain details and forced into harmony 
with his preconceived ideas. His imagina- 
tion was profoundly impressed by the 
existence of Christianity as a revealed 
religion with a founder of its own. Certain 
features of Christianity and of Judaism, 
prayer, purification, solemn festivals, scrip- 
tures, prophets and so forth were regarded 
by him as essential to any religious com- 
munity, because they happened to belong 
both to Judaism and to Christianity. He 
therefore adopted or wished to adopt these 

During the period of his life at Medina, 
Muhammed abandoned his original idea of 
preaching the doctrines which Moses and 


Jesus had proclaimed. This new develop- 
ment was the outcome of a struggle with 
Judaism following upon an unsuccessful 
attempt at compromise. In point of fact 
Judaism and Christianity were as widely 
different from one another as they were 
from his own teaching and he was more 
than ever inclined to regard as his special 
forerunner, Abraham, who had preceded 
both Moses and Jesus, and was revered by 
both religions as the man of God. He then 
brought Abraham into connection with the 
ancient Meccan Ka'ba worship : the Ka'ba 
or die was a sacred stone edifice, in one 
corner of which the " black stone " had 
been built in: this stone was an object of 
reverence to the ancient Arabs, as it still 
is to the Muhammedans. Thus Islam 
gradually assumed the form of an Arab 
religion, developing universalist tendencies 
in the ultimate course of events. Muham- 
med, therefore, as he was the last in the 
ranks of the prophets, must also be the 


greatest. He epitomised all prophecy and 
Islam superseded every revealed religion of 
earlier date. 

Muhammed's original view that earlier 
religions had been founded by God's will 
and through divine revelation, led both him 
and his successors to make an important 
concession : adherents of other religions 
were not compelled to adopt Islam. They 
were allowed to observe their own faith un- 
hindered, if they surrendered without fight- 
ing, and were even protected against their 
enemies, in return for which they had to 
pay tribute to their Muslim masters ; this 
was levied as a kind of poll-tax. Thus we 
read in the Qoran (ix. 29) that " those who 
possess Scriptures," i.e. the Jews and 
Christians, who did not accept Islam were 
to be attacked until they paid the gizja or 
tribute. Thus the object of a religious war 
upon the Christians is not expressed by 
the cry " Death or Islam " ; such attacks 


were intended merely to extort an acknow- 
ledgment of Muhammedan supremacy, not 
to abolish freedom of religious observance. 
It would be incorrect for the most part to 
regard the warrior bands which started 
from Arabia as inspired by religious enthus- 
iasm or to attribute to them the fanaticism 
which was first aroused by the crusades and 
in an even greater degree by the later 
Turkish wars. The Muhammedan fanatics 
of the wars of conquest, whose reputation 
was famous among later generations, felt 
but a very scanty interest in religion and 
occasionally displayed an ignorance of its 
fundamental tenets which we can hardly 
exaggerate. The fact is fully consistent 
with the impulses to which the Arab 
migrations were due. These impulses were 
economic and the new religion was nothing 
more than a party cry of unifying power, 
though there is no reason to suppose that it 
was not a real moral force in the life of Mu- 
hammed and his immediate contemporaries, 


Anti-Christian fanaticism there was there- 
fore none. Even in early years Muhamme- 
dans never refused to worship in the same 
buildings as Christians. The various insult- 
ing regulations which tradition represents 
Christians as forced to endure were directed 
not so much against the adherents of another 
faith as against the barely tolerated in- 
habitants of a subjugated state. It is true 
that the distinction is often difficult to 
observe, as religion and nationality were 
one and the same thing to Muhammedans. 
In any case religious animosity was a very 
subordinate phenomenon. It was a gradual 
development and seems to me to have made 
a spasmodic beginning in the first century 
under the influence of ideas adopted from 
Christianity. It may seem paradoxical to 
assert that it was Christian influence which 
first stirred Islam to religious animosity 
and armed it with the sword against Chris- 
tianity, but the hypothesis becomes highly 
probable when we have realised the in- 


differentism of the Muhammedan conquer- 
ors. We shall constantly see hereafter how 
much they owed in every department of 
intellectual life to the teaching of the races 
which they subjugated. Their attitude 
towards other beliefs was never so intolerant 
as was that of Christendom at that period. 
Christianity may well have been the teach- 
ing influence in this department of life as 
in others. Moreover at all times and 
especially in the first century the position 
of Christians has been very tolerable, even 
though the Muslims regarded them as an 
inferior class. Christians were able to rise 
to the highest offices of state, even to the 
post of vizier, without any compulsion to 
renounce their faith. Even during the 
period of the crusades when the religious 
opposition was greatly intensified, again 
through Christian policy, Christian officials 
cannot have been uncommon : otherwise 
Muslim theorists would never have uttered 
their constant invectives against the em- 


ployment of Christians in administrative 
duties. Naturally zealots appeared at all 
times on the Muhammedan as well as on 
the Christian side and occasionally isolated 
acts of oppression took place : these were, 
however, exceptional. So late as the 
eleventh century, church funeral proces- 
sions were able to pass through the streets 
of Bagdad with all the emblems of Chris- 
tianity and disturbances were recorded by 
the chroniclers as exceptional. In Egypt, 
Christian festivals were also regarded to 
some extent as holidays by the Muhamme- 
dan population. We have but to imagine 
these conditions reversed in a Christian 
kingdom of the early middle ages and the 
probability of my theory will become 

The Christians of the East, who had 
broken for the most part with the orthodox 
Church, also regarded Islam as a lesser evil 
than the Byzantine established Church. 
Moreover Islam, as being both a political 


and ecclesiastical organisation, regarded 
the Christian church as a state within a 
state and permitted it to preserve its own 
juridical and at first its own governmental 
rights. Application was made to the 
bishops when anything was required from 
the community and the churches were used 
as taxation offices. This was all in the 
interests of the clergy who thus found their 
traditional claims realised. These relations 
were naturally modified in the course of 
centuries ; the crusades, the Turkish wars 
and the great expansion of Europe widened 
the breach between Christianity and Islam, 
while as the East was gradually brought 
under ecclesiastical influence, the contrast 
grew deeper : the theory, however, that the 
Muhammedan conquerors and their suc- 
cessors were inspired by a fanatical hatred 
of Christianity is a fiction invented by 

We have now to examine this early 
development of Islam in somewhat greater 
d 33 


detail : indeed, to secure a more general 
appreciation of this point is the object of 
the present work. 

The relationship of the Qoran to Chris- 
tianity has been already noted : it was a 
book which preached rather than taught and 
enounced isolated laws but no connected 
system. Islam was a clear and simple war- 
cry betokening merely a recognition of Arab 
supremacy, of the unity of God and of 
Muhammed's prophetic mission. But in a 
few centuries Islam became a complex 
religious structure, a confusion of Greek 
philosophy and Roman law, accurately 
regulating every department of human 
life from the deepest problems of morality 
to the daily use of the toothpick, and the 
fashions of dress and hair. This change 
from the simplicity of the founder's religious 
teaching to a system of practical morality 
often wholly divergent from primitive 
doctrine, is a transformation which all the 


great religions of the world have under- 
gone. Religious founders have succeeded in 
rousing the sense of true religion in the 
human heart. Religious systems result 
from the interaction of this impulse with 
pre-existing capacities for civilisation. The 
highest attainments of human life are 
dependent upon circumstances of time and 
place, and environment often exerts a more 
powerful influence than creative power. 
The teaching of Jesus was almost over- 
powered by the Grseco-Oriental culture of 
later Hellenism. Dissensions persist even 
now because millions of people are unable 
to distinguish pure religion from the forms 
of expression belonging to an extinct 
civilisation. Islam went through a similar 
course of development and assumed the 
spiritual panoply which was ready to hand. 
Here, as elsewhere, this defence was a 
necessity during the period of struggle, 
but became a crushing burden during the 
peace which followed victory, for the reason 


that it was regarded as inseparable from the 
wearer of it. From this point of view the 
analogy with Christianity will appear ex- 
tremely striking, but it is something more 
than an analogy : the Oriental Hellenism of 
antiquity was to Christianity that which 
the Christian Oriental Hellenism of a few 
centuries later was to Islam. 

We must now attempt to realise the 
nature of this event so important in the 
history of the world. A nomadic people, 
recently united, not devoid of culture, but 
with a very limited range of ideas, suddenly 
gains supremacy over a wide and populous 
district with an ancient civilisation. These 
nomads are as yet hardly conscious of their 
political unity and the individualism of 
the several tribes composing it is still a 
disruptive force : yet they can secure 
domination over countries such as Egypt 
and Babylonia, with complex constitutional 
systems, where climatic conditions, the 
nature of the soil and centuries of work 


have combined to develop an intricate 
administrative system, which newcomers 
could not be expected to understand, much 
less to recreate or to remodel. Yet the 
theory has long been held that the Arabs 
entirely reorganised the constitutions of 
these countries. Excessive importance has 
been attached to the statements of Arab 
authors, who naturally regarded Islam as 
the beginning of all things. In every detail 
of practical life they regarded the prophet 
and his contemporaries as their ruling ideal, 
and therefore naturally assumed that the 
constitutional practices of the prophet were 
his own invention. The organisation of the 
conquering race with its tribal subordina- 
tion was certainly purely Arab in origin. 
In fact the conquerors seemed so unable to 
adapt themselves to the conditions with 
which they met, that foreigners who joined 
their ranks were admitted to the Muham- 
medan confederacy only as clients of the 
various Arab tribes. This was, however, a 


mere question of outward form : the inter- 
nal organisation continued unchanged, as 
it was bound to continue unless chaos 
were to be the consequence. In fact, pre- 
existing administrative regulations were so 
far retained that the old customs duties 
on the former frontiers were levied as 
before, though they represented an insti- 
tution wholly alien to the spirit of the 
Muhammedan empire. Those Muhammedan 
authors, who describe the administrative 
organisation, recognise only the taxes 
which Islam regarded as lawful and char- 
acterise others as malpractices which had 
crept in at a later date. It is remarkable 
that these so-called subsequent malprac- 
tices correspond with Byzantine and Per- 
sian usage before the conquest : but tradi- 
tion will not admit the fact that these 
remained unchanged. The same fact is 
obvious when we consider the progress of 
civilisation in general. In every case the 
Arabs merely develop the social and eco- 


nomic achievements of the conquered races 
to further issues. Such progress could in- 
deed only be modified by a general up- 
heaval of existing conditions and no such 
movement ever took place. The Germanic 
tribes destroyed the civilisations with which 
they met ; they adopted many of the in- 
stitutions of Christian antiquity, but found 
them an impediment to the development 
of their own genius. The Arabs simply 
continued to develop the civilisation of post- 
classical antiquity with which they had 
come in contact. 

This procedure may seem entirely natural 
in the department of economic life, but by 
no means inevitable where intellectual 
progress is concerned. Yet a similar course 
was followed in either case, as may be 
proved by dispassionate examination. Islam 
was a rising force, a faith rather of experi- 
ence than of theory or dogma, when it 
raised its claims against Christianity, which 
represented all pre-existing intellectual cul- 


ture. A settlement of these claims was 
necessary and the military triumphs are but 
the prelude to a great accommodation of 
intellectual interests. In this Christianity 
played the chief part, though Judaism is 
also represented : I am inclined, however, 
to think that Jewish ideas as they are 
expressed in the Qoran were often trans- 
mitted through the medium of Christianity. 
There is no doubt that in Medina Muhammed 
was under direct Jewish influence of extra- 
ordinary power. Even at that time Jewish 
ideas may have been in circulation, not only 
in the Qoran but also in oral tradition, 
which afterwards became stereotyped : at 
the same time Muhammed's utterances 
against the Jews eventually became so 
strong during the Medina period, for politi- 
cal reasons, that I can hardly imagine the 
traditions in their final form to have been 
adopted directly from the Jews. The case 
of Jewish converts is a different matter. 
But in Christianity also much Jewish 


wisdom was to be found at that time and it 
is well known that even the Eastern churches 
regarded numerous precepts of the Old 
Testament, including those that dealt with 
ritual, as binding upon them. In any case 
the spirit of Judaism is present, either 
directly or working through Christianity, as 
an influence wherever Islam accommodated 
itself to the new intellectual and spiritual 
life which it had encountered. It was a 
compromise which affected the most trivial 
details of life, and in these matters religious 
scrupulosity was carried to a ridiculous 
point : here we may see the outcome of 
that Judaism which, as has been said, was 
then a definite element in Eastern Christian- 
ity. Together with Jewish, Greek and 
classical ideas were also naturally operative, 
while Persian and other ancient Oriental 
conceptions were transmitted to Islam by 
Christianity : these instances I have collec- 
tively termed Christian because Christianity 
then represented the whole of later classical 


intellectualism, which influenced Islam for 
the most part through Christianity. 

It seems that the communication of these 
ideas to Muhammedanism was impeded 
by the necessity of translating them not 
only into a kindred language, but into one 
of wholly different linguistic structure. For 
Muhammedanism the difficulty was lessened 
by the fact that it had learned Christianity 
in Syria and Persia through the Semitic 
dialect known as Aramaic, by which Greek 
and Persian culture had been transmitted 
to the Arabs before the rise of Islam. In 
this case, as in many others, the history 
of language runs on parallel lines with 
the history of civilisation. The necessities 
of increasing civilisation had introduced 
many Aramaic words to the Arabic vocabu- 
lary before Muhammed's day : these impor- 
tations increased considerably when the 
Arabs entered a wider and more complex 
civilisation and were especially considerable 
where intellectual culture was concerned. 


Even Greek terms made their way into 
Arabic through Aramaic. This natural 
dependency of Arabic upon Aramaic, which 
in turn was connected with Greek as the 
rival Christian vernacular in these regions, 
is alone sufficient evidence that Christianity 
exerted a direct influence upon Muham- 
medanism. Moreover, as we have seen, the 
Qoran itself regarded Christians as being 
in possession of divine wisdom, and some 
reference both to Christianity and to Ju- 
daism was necessary to explain the many 
unintelligible passages of the Qoran. Allu- 
sions were made to texts and statements in 
the Thora and the Gospels, and God was 
represented as constantly appealing to 
earlier revelations of Himself. Thus it was 
only natural that interpreters should study 
these scriptures and ask counsel of their 
possessors. Of primary importance was 
the fact that both Christians and Jews, and 
the former in particular, accepted Muham- 
medanism by thousands, and formed a new 


intellectual class of ability infinitely superior 
to that of the original Muslims and able to 
attract the best elements of the Arab 
nationality to their teaching. It was as 
impossible for these apostate Christians to 
abandon their old habits of thought as it 
was hopeless to expect any sudden change 
in the economic conditions under which 
they lived. Christian theories of God and 
the world naturally assumed a Muhammedan 
colouring and thus the great process of 
accommodating Christianity to Muham- 
medanism was achieved. The Christian 
contribution to this end was made partly 
directly and partly by teaching, and in the 
intellectual as well as in the economic sphere 
the ultimate ideal was inevitably dictated 
by the superior culture of Christianity. 
The Muhammedans were thus obliged to 
accept Christian hypotheses on theological 
points and the fundaments of Christian and 
Muhammedan culture thus become identical. 
I use the term hypotheses, for the reason 


that the final determination of the points at 
issue was by no means identical, wherever 
the Qoran definitely contradicted Christian 
views of morality or social laws. But in 
these cases also, Christian ideas were able to 
impose themselves upon tradition and to 
issue in practice, even when opposed by the 
actual text of the Qoran. They did not 
always pass unquestioned and even on 
trivial points were obliged to encounter some 
resistance. The theory of the Sunday was 
accepted, but that day was not chosen and 
Friday was preferred : meetings for worship 
were held in imitation of Christian practice, 
but attempts to sanctify the day and to 
proclaim it a day of rest were forbidden : 
except for the performance of divine service, 
Friday was an ordinary week-day. When, 
however, the Qoran was in any sort of 
harmony with Christianity, the Christian 
ideas of the age were textually accepted in 
any further development of the question. 
The fact is obvious, not only as regards 


details, but also in the general theory of 
man's position upon earth. 

Muhammed, the preacher of repentance, 
had become a temporal prince in Medina ; 
his civil and political administration was 
ecclesiastical in character, an inevitable re- 
sult of his position as the apostle of God, 
whose congregation was at the same time 
a state. This theory of the state led 
later theorists unconsciously to follow the 
lead of Christianity, which regarded the 
church as supreme in every department of 
life, and so induced Muhammedanism to 
adopt views of life and social order which 
are now styled mediaeval. The theological 
development of this system is to be attri- 
buted chiefly to groups of pious thinkers in 
Medina : they were excluded from political 
life when the capital was transferred from 
Medina to Damascus and were left in peace 
to elaborate their theory of the Muhamme- 
dan divine polity. The influence of these 


groups was paramount : but of almost equal 
importance was the influence of the prose- 
lytes in the conquered lands who were 
Christians for the most part and for that 
reason far above their Arab contemporaries 
in respect of intellectual training and cul- 
ture. We find that the details of juris- 
prudence, dogma, and mysticism can only 
be explained by reference to Christian 
stimulus, nor is it any exaggeration to 
ascribe the further development of Muham- 
med's views to the influence of thinkers who 
regarded the religious polity of Islam as the 
realisation of an ideal which Christianity 
had hitherto vainly striven to attain. This 
ideal was the supremacy of religion over 
life and all its activities, over the state and 
the individual alike. But it was a religion 
primarily concerned with the next world, 
where alone real worth was to be found. 
Earthly life was a pilgrimage to be per- 
formed and earthly intentions had no place 
with heavenly. The joy of life which the 


ancient world had known, art, music and 
culture, all were rejected or valued only as 
aids to religion. Human action was judged 
with reference only to its appraisement in 
the life to come. That ascetic spirit was 
paramount, which had enchained the Chris- 
tian world, that renunciation of secular 
affairs which explains the peculiar methods 
by which mediaeval views of life found 

Asceticism did not disturb the course of 
life as a whole. It might condemn but it 
could not suppress the natural impulse of 
man to propagate his race : it might 
hamper economic forces, but it could not 
destroy them. It eventually led to a com- 
promise in every department of life, but for 
centuries it retained its domination over 
men's minds and to some material extent 
over their actions. 

Such was the environment in which Islam 
was planted : its deepest roots had been 
fertilised with Christian theory, and in spite 


of Muhammed's call to repentance, its most 
characteristic manifestations were somewhat 
worldly and non-ascetic. " Islam knows 
not monasticism " says the tradition which 
this tendency produced. The most impor- 
tant compromise of all, that with life, which 
Christianity only secured by gradual steps, 
had been already attained for Islam by 
Muhammed himself and was included in the 
course of his development. As Islam now 
entered the Christian world, it was forced 
to pass through this process of development 
once more. At the outset it was permeated 
with the idea of Christian asceticism, to 
which an inevitable opposition arose, and 
found expression in such statements as that 
already quoted. But Muhammed's preach- 
ing had obviously striven to honour the 
future life by painting the actual world in 
the gloomiest colours, and the material 
optimism of the secular -minded was un- 
able to check the advance of Christian 
asceticism among the classes which felt a 
e 49 


real interest in religion. Hence that sur- 
prising similarity of views upon the problem 
of existence, which we have now to outline. 
In details of outward form great diver- 
gency is apparent. Christianity possessed 
a clergy while Islam did not : yet the force 
of Christian influence produced a priestly 
class in Islam. It was a class acting not 
as mediator between God and man through 
sacraments and mysteries, but as moral 
leaders and legal experts ; as such it was 
no less important than the scribes under 
Judaism. Unanimity among these scholars 
could produce decisions no less binding 
than those of the Christian clergy assembled 
in church councils. They are representa- 
tives of the congregation which " has no 
unanimity, for such would be an error." 
Islam naturally preferred to adopt unani- 
mous conclusions in silence rather than to 
vote in assemblies. As a matter of fact a 
body of orthodox opinion was developed by 
this means with no less success than in 


Christendom. Any agreement which the 
quiet work of the scholars had secured upon 
any question was ratified by God and was 
thus irrevocably and eternally binding. 
For instance, the proclamation to the faith- 
ful of new ideas upon the exposition of the 
Qoran or of tradition was absolutely for- 
bidden ; the scholars, in other words the 
clergy, had convinced themselves, by the 
fact of their unanimity upon the point, 
that the customary and traditional mode of 
exposition was the one pleasing to God. 
Ideas of this kind naturally remind us of 
Roman Catholic practice. The influence of 
Eastern Christianity upon Islam is un- 
doubtedly visible here. This influence 
could not in the face of Muhammedan 
tradition and custom, create an organised 
clergy, but it produced a clerical class to 
guard religious thought, and as religion 
spread, to supervise thought of every kind. 

Christianity again condemned marriage, 
though it eventually agreed to a com- 


promise sanctifying this tie ; Islam, on the 
contrary, found in the Qoran the text 
" Ye that are unmarried shall marry " 
(24, 32). In the face of so clear a state- 
ment, the condemnation of marriage, which 
in any case was contrary to the whole spirit 
of the Qoran, could not be maintained. 
Thus the Muhammedan tradition contains 
numerous sayings in support of marriage. 
" A childless house contains no blessing " : 
" the breath of a son is as the breath of 
Paradise " ; " when a man looks upon his 
wife (in love) and she upon him, God 
looks down in mercy upon them both." 
" Two prayers of a married man are more 
precious in the sight of God than seventy 
of a bachelor." With many similar varia- 
tions upon the theme, Muhammed is said 
to have urged marriage upon his followers. 
On the other hand an almost equally 
numerous body of warnings against mar- 
riage exists, also issued by Muhammed. 
I know no instance of direct prohibition, 


but serious admonitions are found which 
usually take the form of denunciation of 
the female sex and were early interpreted as 
warnings by tradition. " Fear the world 
and women " : " thy worst enemies are the 
wife at thy side and thy concubine " : 
" the least in Paradise are the women " : 
" women are the faggots of hell " ; " pious 
women are rare as ravens with white or red 
legs and white beaks " ; " but for women 
men might enter Paradise." Here we come 
upon a strain of thought especially Christian. 
Muhammed regarded the satisfaction of the 
sexual instincts as natural and right and 
made no attempt to put restraint upon it : 
Christian asceticism regarded this impulse 
as the greatest danger which could threaten 
the spiritual life of its adherents, and the 
sentences above quoted may be regarded as 
the expression of this view. Naturally the 
social position of the woman suffered in 
consequence and is so much worse in the 
traditional Muhammedanism as compared 


with the Qoran that the change can only be 
ascribed to the influence of the civilisation 
which the Muhammedans encountered. The 
idea of woman as a creature of no account 
is certainly rooted in the ancient East, but it 
reached Islam in Christian dress and with the 
authority of Christian hostility to marriage. 
With this hostility to marriage are prob- 
ably connected the regulations concerning 
the covering of the body : in the ancient 
church only the face, the hands and the feet 
were to be exposed to view, the object being 
to prevent the suggestion of sinful thoughts : 
it is also likely that objections to the ancient 
habit of leaving the body uncovered found 
expression in this ordinance. Similar ob- 
jections may be found in Muhammedan 
tradition ; we may regard these as further de- 
velopments of commands given in the Qoran, 
but it is also likely that Muhammed's apocry- 
phal statements upon the point were dictated 
by Christian religious theory. They often 
appear in connection with warnings against 


frequenting the public baths, which fact is 
strong evidence of their Christian origin. 
" A bad house is the bath : much turmoil is 
therein and men show their nakedness." 
" Fear that house that is called the bath- 
house and if any enter therein, let him veil 
himself." " He who believes in God and the 
last Judgment, let him enter the bath only 
in bathing dress." " Nakedness is for- 
bidden to us." There is a story of the 
prophet, to the effect that he was at work 
unclothed when a voice from heaven ordered 
him to cover his nakedness ! 

We thus see, that an astonishing similarity 
is apparent in the treatment even of ques- 
tions where divergency is fundamental. 
Divergency, it is true, existed, but pales 
before the general affinity of the two 
theories of life. Our judgment upon Chris- 
tian mediaevalism in this respect can be 
applied directly and literally to Muham- 
medanism. Either religion regards man 


as no more than a sojourner in this world. 
It is not worth while to arrange for 
a permanent habitation, and luxurious 
living is but pride. Hence the simpli- 
city of private dwellings in mediaeval 
times both in the East and West. Archi- 
tectural expense is confined to churches 
and mosques, which were intended for the 
service of God. These Christian ideas are 
reflected in the inexhaustible storehouse 
of Muhammedan theory, the great collec- 
tions of tradition, as follows. " The worst 
use which a believer can make of his 
money is to build." " Every building, 
except a mosque, will stand to the discredit 
of its architect on the day of resurrection." 
These polemics which Islam inherited from 
Christianity are directed not only against 
building in general, but also against the 
erection and decoration of lofty edifices : 
" Should a man build a house nine ells high, 
a voice will call to him from heaven, Whither 
wilt thou rise, most profane of the pro- 


fane ? " " No prophet enters a house 
adorned with fair decoration." With these 
prohibitions should be connected the some- 
what unintelligible fact that the most pious 
Caliphs sat upon thrones (mimbar, "presi- 
dent's chair ") of clay. The simplest and 
most transitory material thus serves to 
form the symbol of temporal power. A 
house is adorned not by outward show, but 
by the fact that prayer is offered and the 
Qoran recited within its walls. These 
theories were out of harmony with the 
worldly tendencies of the conquerors, who 
built themselves castles, such as Qusair 
Amra : they belong to the spirit of Chris- 
tianity rather than to Islam. 

Upon similar principles we may explain 
the demand for the utmost simplicity and 
reserve in regard to the other enjoyments 
of life. To eat whenever one may wish is 
excess and two meals a day are more than 
enough. The portion set apart for one may 
also suffice for two. Ideas of this kind are 


of constant recurrence in the Muhammedan 
traditions : indispensable needs alone are 
to be satisfied, as indeed Thomas Aquinas 
teaches. Similar observations apply to 
dress : " he who walks in costly garments 
to be seen of men is not seen of the Lord." 
Gold and silver ornaments, and garments 
of purple and silk are forbidden by both 
religions. Princes live as simply as beggars 
and possess only one garment, so that they 
are unable to appear in public when it is 
being washed : they live upon a handful of 
dates and are careful to save paper and 
artificial light. Such incidents are common 
in the oldest records of the first Caliphs. 
These princes did not, of course, live in such 
beggary, and the fact is correspondingly 
important that after the lapse of one or two 
generations the Muhammedan historians 
should describe their heroes as possessing 
only the typical garment of the Christian 
saint. This one fact speaks volumes. 
Every action was performed in God or 


with reference to God — an oft-repeated idea 
in either religion. There is a continual 
hatred of the world and a continual fear 
that it may imperil a man's soul. Hence 
the sense of vast responsibility felt by the 
officials, a sense which finds expression even 
in the ordinary official correspondence of 
the authorities which papyri have pre- 
served for us. The phraseology is often 
stereotyped, but as such, expresses a special 
theory of life. This responsibility is repre- 
sented as weighing with especial severity 
upon a pious Caliph. Upon election to the 
throne he accepts office with great reluctance 
protesting his un worthiness with tears. 
The West can relate similar stories of 
Gregory the Great and of Justinian. 

Exhortations are frequent ever to remem- 
ber the fact of death and to repent and 
bewail past sins. When a mention of the 
last Judgment occurs in the reading of 
passages from the Bible or Qoran, the 
auditors burst into tears. Upon one occa- 


sion a man was praying upon the roof of 
his house and wept so bitterly over his sins, 
that the tears ran down the waterspout and 
flooded the rooms below. This hyperbolical 
statement in a typical life of a saint shows 
the high value attributed to tears in the East. 
It is, however, equally a Christian charac- 
teristic. The gracious gift of tears was re- 
garded by mediaeval Christianity as the sign 
of a deeply religious nature. Gregory VII 
is said to have wept daily at the sacrifice 
of the Mass and similar accounts are given 
to the credit of other famous Christians. 

While a man should weep for his own 
sins, he is not to bewail any misfortune or 
misery which may befall him. In the latter 
case it is his duty to collect his strength, to 
resign himself and to praise God even amid 
his sufferings. Should he lose a dear relative 
by death, he is not to break out with cries 
and lamentations like the heathen. Lamen- 
tation for the dead is most strictly forbidden 
in Islam. " We are God's people and to 


God we return " says the pious Muslim on 
receiving the unexpected news of a death. 
Resignation and patience in these matters 
is certainly made the subject of eloquent 
exhortation in the Qoran, but the special 
developments of tradition betray Christian 

Generally speaking, the whole ethical 
system of the two religions is based upon 
the contrast between God and the world, 
though Muhammedan philosophy will recog- 
nise no principle beside that of God. As a 
typical example we may take a sentence 
from the Spanish bishop Isidor who died in 
636 : " Good are the intentions directed 
towards God and bad are those directed 
to earthly gain or transitory fame." Any 
Muhammedan theologian would have sub- 
scribed to this statement. On the one hand 
stress is laid upon motive as giving its value 
to action. The first sentence in the most 
famous collection of traditions runs, " Deeds 
shall be judged by their intentions." On 


the other hand is the contrast between God 
and the world, or as Islam puts it, between 
the present and the future life. The Chris- 
tian gains eternal life by following Christ. 
Imitation of the Master in all things even to 
the stigmata, is the characteristic feature of 
mediaeval Christianity. Nor is the whole 
of the so-called Sunna obedience anything 
more than the imitation of Muhammed 
which seeks to repeat the smallest details 
of his life. The infinite importance attached 
by Islam to the Sunna seems to me to 
have originated in Christian influence. The 
development of it betrays original features, 
but the fundamental principle is Christian, 
as all the leading ideas of Islam are Christian, 
in the sense of the term as paraphrased above. 
Imitation of Christ in the first instance, 
attempts to repeat his poverty and renun- 
ciation of personal property : this is the 
great Christian ideal. Muhammed was 
neither poor nor without possessions : at 
the end of his life he had become a prince 


and had directly stated that property was 
a gift from God. In spite of that his succes- 
sors praise poverty and their praises were 
the best of evidence that they were in- 
fluenced not by the prophet himself but by 
Christianity. While the traditions are full 
of the praises of poverty and the dangers of 
wealth, assertions in praise of wealth also 
occur, for the reason that the pure Muham- 
medan ideas opposed to Christianity re- 
tained a certain influence. J. Goldziher 
has published an interesting study showing 
how many words borrowed from this source 
occur in the written Muhammedan tradi- 
tions : an almost complete version of the 
Lord's Prayer is quoted. Even the idea of 
love towards enemies, which would have 
been unintelligible to Muhammed, made its 
way into the traditions : " the most virtuous 
of acts is to seek out him who rejects thee, 
to give to him that despises thee and to 
pardon him that oppresses thee." The 
Gospel precept to do unto others as we 


would they should do unto us (Matt. vii. 12, 
Luke vi. 31) is to be found in the Arab 
traditions, and many similar points of con- 
tact may be noticed. A man's " neighbour " 
has ever been, despite the teaching of Jesus, 
to the Christian and to the Muhammedan, 
his co-religionist. The whole department of 
Muhammedan ethics has thus been sub- 
jected to strong Christian influence. 

Naturally this ecclesiasticism which domi- 
nated the whole of life, was bound to assert 
itself in state organisation. An abhorrence 
of the state, so far as it was independent of 
religion, a feeling unknown in the ancient 
world, pervades both Christianity and Mu- 
hammedanism. Christianity first struggled 
to secure recognition in the state and after- 
wards fought with the state for predomi- 
nance. Islam and the state were at first 
identical : in its spiritual leaders it was 
soon separated from the state. Its idea of a 
divine polity was elaborated to the smallest 


details, but remained a theory which never 
became practice. Yet this ideal retained 
such strength that every Muhammedan 
usurper was careful to secure his investiture 
by the Caliph, the nominal leader of this 
ecclesiastical state, even if force were neces- 
sary to attain his object. For instance, 
Saladin was absolutely independent of the 
nominal Caliph in Bagdad, but could not 
feel that his position was secure until he 
had obtained his sultan's patent from the 
Caliph. Only then did his supremacy rest 
upon a religious basis and he was not re- 
garded by popular opinion as a legitimate 
monarch until this ceremony had been per- 
formed. This theory corresponds with 
constitutional ideals essentially Christian. 
" The tyranny," wrote Innocent IV to the 
Emperor Frederick II, " which was once 
generally exercised throughout the world, 
was resigned into the hands of the Church 
by Constantine, who then received as an 
honourable gift from the proper source that 
f 65 


which he had formerly held and exercised 
unrighteously." The long struggle between 
Church and State in this matter is well 
known. In this struggle the rising power of 
Islam had adopted a similar attitude. The 
great abhorrence of a secular " monarchy " 
in opposition to a religious caliphate, as 
expressed both by the dicta of tradition 
and by the Abbassid historians, was in- 
spired, in my opinion, by Christian dislike 
of a divorce between Church and State. The 
phenomenon might be explained without 
reference to external influence, but if the 
whole process be considered in connection, 
Christian influence seems more than prob- 

A similar attitude was also assumed by 
either religion towards the facts of eco- 
nomic life. In either case the religious 
point of view is characteristic. The re- 
action against the tendency to condemn 
secular life is certainly stronger in Islam, 
but is also apparent in Christianity. Thomas 


Aquinas directly stigmatises trade as a 
disgraceful means of gain, because the 
exchange of wares does not necessitate 
labour or the satisfaction of necessary 
wants : Muhammedan tradition says, " The 
pious merchant is a pioneer on the road of 
God." " The first to enter Paradise is the 
honourable merchant." Here the solution 
given to the problem differs in either case, 
but in Christian practice, opposition was 
also obvious. Common to both religions 
is the condemnation of the exaction of 
interest and monetary speculation, which 
the middle ages regarded as usury. Islam, 
as usual, gives this Christian idea the form 
of a saying enounced by Muhammed: 
" He who speculates in grain for forty 
days, grinds and bakes it and gives it 
to the poor, makes an offering unaccept- 
able to God." " He who raises prices to 
Muslims (by speculation) will be cast head 
downwards by God into the hottest fire of 
hell." Many similar traditions fulminate 


against usury in the widest sense of the word. 
These prohibitions were circumvented in 
practice by deed of gift and exchange, 
but none the less the free development 
of commercial enterprise was hampered by 
these fetters which modern civilisation first 
broke. Enterprise was thus confined to 
agriculture under these circumstances both 
for Christianity and Islam, and economic 
life in either case became "mediaeval" in 
outward appearance. 

Methods of making profit without a pro- 
portional expenditure of labour were the 
particular objects of this aversion. Manual 
labour was highly esteemed both in the 
East and West. A man's first duty was to 
support himself by the work of his own 
hands, a duty proclaimed, as we know, from 
the apostolic age onwards. So far as Islam 
is concerned, this view may be illustrated 
by the following utterances : " The best of 
deeds is the gain of that which is lawful " : 
" the best gain is made by sale within lawful 


limits and by manual labour." " The most 
precious gain is that made by manual 
labour ; that which a man thus earns and 
gives to himself, his people, his sons and his 
servants, is as meritorious as alms." Thus 
practical work is made incumbent upon the 
believer, and the extent to which manufac- 
ture flourished in East and West during the 
middle ages is well known. 

A similar affinity is apparent as regards 
ideas upon social position and occupation. 
Before God man is but a slave : even the 
mighty Caliphs themselves, even those who 
were stigmatised by posterity as secular 
monarchs, included in their official titles the 
designation, " slave of God." This theory 
was carried out into the smallest details of 
life, even into those which modern observers 
would consider as unconcerned with religion. 
Thus at meals the Muslim was not allowed 
to recline at table, an ancient custom which 
the upper classes had followed for centuries : 
he must sit, "asa slave," according to the 


letter of the law. All are alike slaves, for 
the reason that they are believers : hence 
the humiliation of those whom chance has 
exalted is thought desirable. This idealism 
is undoubtedly more deeply rooted in the 
popular consciousness of the East than of 
the West. In the East great social distinc- 
tions occur ; but while religion recognises 
them, it forbids insistence upon them. 

As especially distinctive of social work in 
either religion we might be inclined to 
regard the unparalleled extent of organisa- 
tions for the care of the poor, for widows 
and orphans, for the old, infirm and sick, 
the public hospitals and almshouses and 
religious foundations in the widest sense of 
the term ; but the object of these activities 
was not primarily social nor were they under- 
taken to make life easier for the poor : 
religious selfishness was the leading motive, 
the desire to purify self by good works and 
to secure the right to pre-eminence in 
heaven. " For the salvation of my soul and 


for everlasting reward " is the formula of 
many a Christian foundation deed. Very 
similar expressions of hope for eternal re- 
ward occur in Muhammedan deeds of gift. 
A foundation inscription on a mosque, pub- 
lished by E. Littmann, is stated in terms 
the purport of which is unmistakable. 
" This has been built by N or M : may a 
house be built for him in Paradise (in 
return)." Here again, the idea of the 
house in Paradise is borrowed from Christian 

We have already observed that in Islam 
the smallest trivialities of daily life become 
matters of religious import. The fact is 
especially apparent in a wide department of 
personal conduct. Islam certainly went to 
further extremes than Christianity in this 
matter, but these customs are clearly only 
further developments of Christian regula- 
tions. The call to simplicity of food and 
dress has already been mentioned. But 
even the simplest food was never to be 


taken before thanks had been given to God : 
grace was never to be omitted either before 
or after meals. Divine ordinances also 
regulated the manner of eating. The pro- 
phet said, "With one finger the devils eat, 
with two the Titans of antiquity and with 
three fingers the prophets." The applica- 
tion of the saying is obvious. Similar sayings 
prescribe the mode of handling dishes and 
behaviour at a common meal, if the blessing 
of God is to be secured. There seems to be 
a Christian touch in one of these rules which 
runs, in the words of the prophet : " He who 
picks up the crumbs fallen from the table 
and eats them, will be forgiven by God." 
" He who licks the empty dishes and his 
fingers will be filled by God here and in the 
world to come." " When a man licks the 
dish from which he has eaten, the dish will 
plead for him before God." I regard these 
words as practical applications of the text, 
" Gather up the pieces that remain, that 
nothing be lost " (Matt. xiv. 10 : John vi. 


12). Even to-day South Italians kiss bread 
that has fallen to the ground, in order to 
make apology to the gift of God. Volumes 
might be filled with rules of polite manners 
in this style : hardly any detail is to be 
found in the whole business of daily life, 
even including occupations regarded as 
unclean, which was not invested with some 
religious significance. These rules are al- 
most entirely dictated by the spirit of 
early Christianity and it is possible to re- 
construct the details of life in those dark 
ages from these literary records which are 
now the only source of evidence upon such 
points. However, we must here content 
ourselves with establishing the fact that 
Islam adopted Christian practice in this as 
in other departments of life. 

The state, society, the individual, eco- 
nomics and morality were thus collectively 
under Christian influence during the early 
period of Muhammedanism. Conditions 
very similar in general, affected those 


conceptions which we explain upon scientific 
grounds but which were invariably regarded 
by ancient and mediaeval thought as super- 
natural, conceptions deduced from the 
phenomena of illness and dreams. Islam 
was no less opposed than Christianity to the 
practice of magic in any form, but only so 
far as these practices seemed to preserve 
remnants of heathen beliefs. Such beliefs 
were, however, continued in both religions 
in modified form. There is no doubt that 
ideas of high antiquity, doubtless of Baby- 
lonian origin, can be traced as contributing 
to the formation of these beliefs, while 
scientific medicine is connected with the 
earlier discoveries of Greece. Common to 
both religions was the belief in the reality 
of dreams, especially when these seemed to 
harmonise with religious ideas : dreams 
were regarded as revelations from God or 
from his apostles or from the pious dead. 
The fact that man could dream and that he 
could appear to other men in dreams after 


his death was regarded as a sign of divine 
favour and the biographies of the saints 
often contain chapters devoted to this 
faculty. These are natural ideas which lie 
in the national consciousness of any people, 
but owe their development in the case of 
Islam to Christian influence. The same may 
be said of the belief that the prayers of 
particular saints were of special efficacy, 
and of attempts by prayer, forms of worship 
and the like to procure rain, avert plague 
and so forth : such ideas are common 
throughout the middle ages. Thus in every 
department we meet with that particular 
type of Christian theory which existed in 
the East during the seventh and eighth 

This mediaeval theory of life was subjected, 
as is well known, to many compromises in 
the West, and was materially modified by 
Teutonic influence and the revival of 
classicism. It might therefore be supposed 


that in Islam Christian theory underwent 
similar modification or disappeared entirely. 
But the fact is not so. At the outset, we 
stated, as will be remembered, that Muham- 
medan scholars were accustomed to pro- 
pound their dicta as utterances given by 
Muhammed himself, and in this form Chris- 
tian ideas also came into circulation among 
Muhammedans. When attempts were made 
to systematise these sayings, all were treated 
as alike authentic, and, as traditional, 
exerted their share of influence upon the 
formation of canon law. Thus questions of 
temporary importance to mediaeval Chris- 
tianity became permanent elements in 
Muhammedan theology. 

One highly instructive instance may be 
given. During the century which preceded 
the Byzantine iconoclastic controversy, the 
whole of nearer Asia was disturbed by the 
question whether the erection and venera- 
tion of images was permissible. That 
Constantinople attempted to prohibit such 


veneration is well known : but after a long 
struggle the church gained its wishes. 
Islam was confronted with the problem and 
decided for prohibition, doubtless under 
Jewish influence. Sayings of Muhammed 
forbid the erection of images. This pro- 
hibition became part of canon law and 
therefore binding for all time : it remains 
obligatory at the present day, though in 
practice it is often transgressed. Thus the 
process of development which was continued 
in Christendom, came to a standstill in 
Islam, and many similar cases might be 

Here begins the development of Muham- 
medan jurisprudence or, more exactly, of the 
doctrine of duty, which includes every kind 
of human activity, duties to God and man, 
religion, civil law, the penal code, social 
morality and economics. This extraordinary 
system of moral obligations, as developed 
in Islam, though its origin is obscure, is 
doubtless rooted in the ecclesiastical law of 


Christendom which was then first evolved. 
I have no doubt that the development of 
Muhammedan tradition, which precedes 
the code proper, was dependent upon the 
growth of canon law in the old Church, and 
that this again, or at least the purely legal 
part of it, is closely connected with the 
pre- Justinian legislation. Roman law does 
not seem to me to have influenced Islam 
immediately in the form of Justinian's 
Corpus Juris, but indirectly from such 
ecclesiastical sources as the Romano-Syrian 
code. This view, however, I would distinctly 
state, is merely my conjecture. For our 
present purpose it is more important to 
establish the fact that the doctrine of 
duty canonised the manifold expressions of 
the theory that life is a religion, with which 
we have met throughout the traditional 
literature : all human acts are thus legally 
considered as obligatory or forbidden when 
corresponding with religious commands or 
prohibitions, as congenial or obnoxious to 


the law or as matters legally indifferent and 
therefore permissible. The arrangement of 
the work of daily life in correspondence with 
these religious points of view is the most 
important outcome of the Muhammedan 
doctrine of duties. The religious utterances 
which also cover the whole business of life 
were first made duties by this doctrine : in 
practice their fulfilment is impossible, but 
the theory of their obligatory nature is a 
fundamental element in Muhammedanism. 

Where the doctrine of duties deals with 
legal rights, its application was in practice 
confined to marriage and the affairs of 
family life : the theoretical demands of its 
penal clauses, for instance, raise impossible 
difficulties. At the same time, it has been 
of great importance to the whole spiritual 
life of Islam down to the present day, be- 
cause it reflects Muhammedan ideals of life 
and of man's place in the world. Even to- 
day it remains the daily bread of the soul 
that desires instruction, to quote the words 


of the greatest father of the Muhammedan 
church. It will thus be immediately obvious 
to what a vast extent Christian theory of 
the seventh and eighth centuries still re- 
mains operative upon Muhammedan thought 
throughout the world. 

Considerable parts of the doctrine of 
duties are concerned with the forms of 
Muhammedan worship. It is becoming 
ever clearer that only slight tendencies to a 
form of worship were apparent under Mu- 
hammed. The mosque, the building erected 
for the special purpose of divine service, was 
unknown during the prophet's lifetime ; 
nor was there any definite church organisa- 
tion, of which the most important parts 
are the common ritual and the preaching. 
Tendencies existed but no system was to be 
found : there was no clerical class to take 
an interest in the development of an order 
of divine service. The Caliphs prayed 
before the faithful in the capital, as did the 


governors in the provinces. The military 
commanders also led a simple service in 
their own stations. 

It was contact with foreign influence 
which first provided the impulse to a sys- 
tematic form of worship. Both Christians 
and Jews possessed such forms. Their 
example was followed and a ritual was 
evolved, at first of the very simplest kind. 
No detailed organisation, however, was 
attempted, until Christian influence led to 
the formation of the class which naturally 
took an interest in the matter, the profes- 
sional theologians. These soon replaced the 
military service leaders. This change de- 
noted the final stage in the development of 
ritual. The object of the theologians was 
to subject the various occupations of life to 
ritual as well as to religion. The media- 
torial or sacramental theories of the priestly 
office were unknown to Islam, but ritual 
customs of similar character were gradu- 
ally evolved, and are especially pro- 
g 81 


nounced in the ceremonies of marriage and 

More important, however, was the de- 
velopment of the official service, the arrange- 
ment of the day and the hour of obligatory 
attendance and the introduction of preach- 
ing : under Muhammed and his early fol- 
lowers, and until late in the Omajjad period, 
preaching was confined to addresses, given 
as occasion demanded, but by degrees it 
became part of the regular ritual. With it 
was afterwards connected the intercession 
for the Caliphs, which became a highly 
significant part of the service, as symbolis- 
ing their sovereignty. It seems to me 
very probable that this practice was an 
adoption, at any rate in theory, of the 
Christian custom of praying for the em- 
peror. The pulpit was then introduced 
under Christian influence, which thus com- 
pletely transformed the chair (mimbar) of 
the ancient Arab judges and rulers and 
made it a piece of church furniture ; the 


Christian cancelli or choir screens were 
adopted and the mosque was thus developed. 
Before the age of mosques, a lance had been 
planted in the ground and prayer offered 
behind it : so in the mosque a prayer 
niche was made, a survival of the pre- 
existing custom. There are many obscure 
points in the development of the worship, 
but one fact may be asserted with confi- 
dence : the developments of ritual were 
derived from pre-existing practices, which 
were for the most part Christian. 

But the religious energy of Islam was 
not exclusively devoted to the develop- 
ment and practice of the doctrine of duties ; 
at the same time this ethical department, 
in spite of its dependency upon Christian 
and Jewish ideas, remains its most original 
achievement : we have pursued the subject 
at some length, because its importance is 
often overlooked in the course of attempts 
to estimate the connection between Chris- 


tianity and Islam. On the other hand, 
affinities in the regions of mysticism and 
dogma have long been matter of common 
knowledge and a brief sketch of them will 
therefore suffice. If not essential to our 
purpose within the limits of this book, they 
are none the less necessary to complete our 
treatment of the subject. 

By mysticism we understand the expres- 
sion of religious emotion, as contrasted 
with efforts to attain righteousness by full 
obedience to the ethical doctrine of duties, 
and also in contrast to the hair-splitting of 
dogmatic speculation : mysticism strove 
to reach immediate emotional unity with 
the Godhead. No trace of any such ten- 
dency was to be found in the Qoran : it 
entered Islam as a complete novelty, and 
the affinities which enabled it to gain a 
footing have been difficult to trace. 

Muhammedan mysticism is certainly not 
exclusively Christian : its origins, like those 
of Christian mysticism, are to be found in 


the pantheistic writings of the Neoplatonist 
school of Dionysius the Areopagite : but 
Islam apparently derived its mysticism 
from Christian sources. In it originated the 
idea, with all its capacity for development, 
of the mystical love of God : to this was 
added the theory and practice of asceticism 
which was especially developed by Chris- 
tianity, and, in later times, the influence of 
Indian philosophy, which is unmistakable. 
Such are the fundamental elements of this 
tendency. When the idea of the Nirwana, 
the Arab/and, is attained, Muhammedanism 
proper comes to an end. But orthodoxy 
controls the divergent elements : it opposes 
any open avowal of the logical conclusion, 
which would identify " God " and the 
" ego," but in practice this group of ideas, 
pantheistic in all but name, has been 
received and given a place side by side with 
the strict monotheism of the Qoran and 
with the dogmatic theology. Any form of 
mysticism which is pushed to its logical 


consequences must overthrow positive reli- 
gion. By incorporating this dangerous 
tendency within itself, Islam has averted 
the peril which it threatens. Creed is no 
longer endangered, and this purpose being 
secured, thought is free. 

Union with God is gained by ecstasy and 
leads to enthusiasm. These terms will 
therefore show us in what quarter we must 
seek the strongest impulses to mysticism. 
The concepts, if not the actual terms, are 
to be found in Islam : they were undoubt- 
edly transmitted by Christianity and under- 
go the wide extension which results in the 
dervish and fakir developments. Dervish 
and fakir are the Persian and Arabic words 
for " beggar " : the word sufi, a man in a 
woollen shirt, is also used in the same 
sense. The terms show that asceticism is a 
fundamental element in mysticism ; as- 
ceticism was itself an importation to Islam. 
Dervishes are divided into different classes 
or orders, according to the methods by which 


they severally prefer to attain ecstasy : 
dancing and recitation are practised by the 
dancing and howling dervishes and other 
methods are in vogue. It is an institution 
very different from monasticism but the 
result of a course of development un- 
doubtedly similar to that which produced 
the monk : dervishism and monasticism are 
independent developments of the same 
original idea. 

Among these Muhammedan companies 
attempts to reach the point of ecstasy have 
developed to a rigid discipline of the soul ; 
the believer must subject himself to his 
master, resigning all power of will, and so 
gradually reaches higher stages of know- 
ledge until he is eventually led to the con- 
sciousness of his absolute identity with God. 
It seems to me beyond question that this 
method is reflected in the exercitiis spirituals 
bus of Ignatius Loyola, the chief instrument 
by which the Jesuits secured dominion over 
souls. Any one who has realised the enor- 
8 7 


mous influence which Arab thought exerted 
upon Spanish Christianity so late as the 
fourteenth and fifteenth centuries, will not 
regard the conjecture as unfounded. 

When a man's profession or position 
prevented him from practising these mysti- 
cal exercises, he satisfied his religious needs 
by venerating persons who were nearer to 
the deity and whose intercession was effec- 
tual even after their death and sometimes 
not until they were dead : hence arose the 
veneration of saints, a practice as alien as 
pantheistic dogma to primitive Islam. The 
adoption of Christian saint worship was not 
possible until the person of Muhammed 
himself had been exalted above the ordinary 
level of humanity. Early Muhammedans 
observed that the founder of Christianity 
was regarded by popular opinion as a 
miracle worker of unrivalled power : it was 
impossible for the founder of Islam to re- 
main inferior in this respect. Thus the early 
biographies of the prophet, which appeared 


in the first century of Muhammedanism, 
recount the typical miracles of the Gospels, 
the feeding of multitudes, healing the sick, 
raising the dead and so forth. Two methods 
of adoption may be distinguished. Special 
features are directly borrowed, or the line 
of advance is followed which had introduced 
the worship of saints and relics to Chris- 
tianity a short time before. The religious 
emotions natural to any people produced a 
series of ideas which pass from one religion 
to another. Outward form and purport 
may be changed, but the essential points 
remain unaltered and are the living expres- 
sion of that relation to God in which a 
people conceives itself to stand. Higher 
forms of religion — a fact as sad as it is true — 
require a certain degree not only of moral 
but of intellectual capacity. 

Thus we have traversed practically the 
whole circle of religious life and have every- 
where found Islam following in the path of 


Christian thought. One department re- 
mains to be examined, which might be 
expected to offer but scanty opportunity 
for borrowings of this kind ; this is dogma. 
Here, if anywhere, the contrast between 
the two religions should be obvious. The 
initial divergencies were so pronounced, 
that any adoption of Christian ideas would 
seem impossible. Yet in those centuries, 
Christianity was chiefly agitated by dog- 
matic questions, which occupied men's 
minds as greatly as social problems at the 
present day. Here we can observe most 
distinctly, how the problems at least were 
taken over by Islam. 

Muhammedan dogmatic theology is con- 
cerned only with three main questions, the 
problem of free-will, the being and attri- 
butes of God, and the eternal uncreated 
nature of God's word. The mere mention 
of these problems will recall the great 
dogmatic struggles of early Christianity. 
At no time have the problems of free-will 


and the nature of God, been subjects of 
fiercer dispute than during the Christo- 
logical and subsequent discussions. Up- 
holders of freedom or of determinism 
could alike find much to support their 
theories in the Qoran : Muhammed was no 
dogmatist and for him the ideas of man's 
responsibility and of God's almighty and 
universal power were not mutually exclu- 
sive. The statement of the problem was 
adopted from Christianity as also was the 
dialectical subtlety by which a solution was 
reached, and which, while admitting the 
almighty power of God, left man responsible 
for his deeds by regarding him as free to 
accept or refuse the admonitions of God. 
Thus the thinkers and their demands for 
justice and righteous dealing were recon- 
ciled to the blind fatalism of the masses, 
which again was not a native Muhammedan 
product, but is the outcome of the religious 
spirit of the East. 

The problem of reconciling the attributes 


of God with the dogma of His unity was 
solved with no less subtlety. The mere idea 
that a multiplicity of attributes was in- 
compatible with absolute unity was only 
possible in a school which had spent cen- 
turies in the desperate attempt to reconcile 
the inference of a divine Trinity with the 
conception of absolute divine unity. 

Finally, the third question, " Was the 
Qoran, the word of God, created or not ? " 
is an obvious counterpart of the Logos prob- 
lem, of the struggle to secure recognition of 
the Logos as eternal and uncreated together 
with God. Islam solved the question by 
distinguishing the eternal and uncreated 
Qoran from the revealed and created. The 
eternal nature of the Qoran was a dogma 
entirely alien to the strict monotheism of 
Islam : but this fact was never realised, 
any more than the fact that the accept- 
ance of the dogma was a triumph for 
Graeco - Christian dialectic. There can be 
no more striking proof of the strength 


of Christian influence : it was able to un- 
dermine the fundamental dogma of Islam, 
and the Muhammedans never realised the 

In our review of these dogmatic ques- 
tions, we have met with a novel tendency, 
that to metaphysical speculation and dia- 
lectic. It was from Christendom, not 
directly from the Greek world, that this 
spirit reached Islam : the first attitude of 
Muhammedanism towards it was that which 
Christianity adopted towards all non-reli- 
gious systems of thought. Islam took it up 
as a useful weapon for the struggle against 
heresy. But it soon became a favourite and 
trusted implement and eventually its in- 
fluence upon Muhammedan philosophy be- 
came paramount. Here we meet with a 
further Christian influence, which, when 
once accepted, very largely contributed to 
secure a similar development of mediaeval 
Christian and Muhammedan thought. This 
was Scholasticism, which was the natural 


and inevitable consequence of the study of 
Greek dialectic and philosophy. It is not 
necessary to sketch the growth of scholasti- 
cism, with its barrenness of results in spite 
of its keen intellectual power, upon ground 
already fertilised by ecclesiastical pioneers. 
It will suffice to state the fact that these 
developments of the Greek spirit were pre- 
dominant here as in the West : in either 
case important philosophies rise upon this 
basis, for the most part professedly ecclesi- 
astical, even when they occasionally struck 
at the roots of the religious system to which 
they belonged. In this department, Islam 
repaid part of its debt to Christianity, for 
the Arabs became the intellectual leaders of 
the middle ages. 

Thus we come to the concluding section 
of this treatise ; before we enter upon it, 
two preliminary questions remain for con- 
sideration. If Islam was ready to learn 
from Christianity in every department of 


religious life, what was the cause of the 
sudden superiority of Muhammedanism to 
the rising force of Christianity a few cen- 
turies later ? And secondly, in view of 
the traditional antagonism between the 
Christian and Muhammedan worlds, how 
was Christianity able to adopt so large 
and essential a portion of Muhammedan 
thought ? 

The answer in the second case will be 
clear to any one who has followed our argu- 
ment with attention. The intellectual and 
religious outlook was so similar in both 
religions and the problem requiring solution 
so far identical that nothing existed to im- 
pede the adoption of ideas originally Chris- 
tian which had been developed in the East. 
The fact that the West could accept philoso- 
phical and theological ideas from Islam and 
that an actual interchange of thought could 
proceed in this direction, is the best of proofs 
for the soundness of our argument that the 
roots of Muhammedanism are to be sought 


in Christianity. Islam was able to borrow 
from Christianity for the reason that Muham- 
med's ideas were derived from that source : 
similarly Christianity was able to turn Arab 
thought to its own purposes because that 
thought was founded upon Christian prin- 
ciples. The sources of both religions lie in 
the East and in Oriental thought. 

No less is true of Judaism, a scholastic 
system which was excellently adapted by 
its international character, to become a 
medium of communication between Chris- 
tianity and Muhammedanism during those 
centuries. In this connection special men- 
tion must be made of the Spanish Jews ; to 
their work, not only as transmitting but 
also as originating ideas a bare reference 
must here suffice. But of greater import- 
ance was the direct exchange of thought, 
which proceeded through literary channels, 
by means of translations, especially by word 
of mouth among the Christians and Muham- 
medans who were living together in Southern 


Italy, Sicily, and Spain, and by commercial 

The other question concerns the funda- 
mental problem of European medievalism. 
We see that the problems with which the 
middle ages in Europe were confronted 
and also that European ethics and meta- 
physics were identical with the Muhamme- 
dan system : we are moreover assured that 
the acceptance of Christian ideas by Islam 
can only have taken place in the East : and 
the conclusion is obvious that mediaeval 
Christianity was also primarily rooted in the 
East. The transmission of this religious 
philosophy to the non-Oriental peoples of the 
West at first produced a cessation of progress 
but opened a new intellectual world when 
these peoples awoke to life in the thirteenth 
and fourteenth centuries. But throughout 
the intermediate period between the seventh 
and thirteenth centuries the East was gain- 
ing political strength and was naturally 
superior to the West where political organisa- 
h 97 


tion and culture had been shattered by the 
Germanic invasions ; in the East again 
there was an organic unity of national 
strength and intellectual ideals, as the course 
of development had not been interrupted. 
Though special dogmatic points had been 
changed, the general religious theory re- 
mained unaltered throughout the nearer 
East. Thus the rising power of Islam, 
which had high faculties of self-accommoda- 
tion to environment, was able to enter upon 
the heritage of the mixed Graeco - Oriental 
civilisation existing in the East ; in conse- 
quence it gained an immediate advantage 
over the West, where Eastern ideas were 
acclimatised with difficulty. 

The preponderance of Muhammedan in- 
fluence was increased by the fact that Islam 
became the point of amalgamation for 
ancient Eastern cultures, in particular for 
those of Greece and Persia : in previous 
centuries preparation had been made for 
this process by the steady transformation of 


Hellenism to Orientalism. Persia, however, 
had been the main source of Eastern civilisa- 
tion, at any rate since the Sassanid period : 
the debt of Byzantine culture to Persia is 
well known. Unfortunately no thorough 
investigation has been made of these various 
and important changes, but it is clear that 
Persian civilisation sent its influence far 
westward, at first directly and later through 
the medium of Muhammedanism. The 
same facts hold good with regard to the 
diffusion of intellectual culture from Persia. 
How far Persian ideas may have influenced 
the development of Muhammedan and even 
of Christian eschatology, we need not here 
discuss : but the influence of the great 
Grseco-Christian schools of Persia was enor- 
mous : they made the Arabs acquainted 
with the most important works in Greek 
and Persian literature. To this fact was 
due the wide influence of Islam upon 
Christian civilisation, which is evidenced 
even to-day by the numerous words of Arab 


origin to be found in modern European 
languages ; it is in fact an influence the 
strength of which can hardly be exagger- 
ated. Not only the commercial products of 
the East, but important economic methods, 
the ideals of our so-called European chivalry 
and of its love poetry, the foundations of our 
natural sciences, even theological and philo- 
sophical ideas of high value were then sent 
to us from the East. The consequences of 
the crusades are the best proof of the enor- 
mous superiority of the Muhammedan world, 
a fact which is daily becoming more obvious. 
Here we are concerned only with the in- 
fluence exerted by Muhammedan philosophy. 
It would be more correct to speak of post- 
classical than of Muhammedan philosophy. 
But as above, the influence of Christianity 
upon Islam was considered, so now the 
reverse process must be outlined. In either 
case it was the heir to the late classical age, 
to the mixed Grseco-Oriental culture, which 
influenced Islam at first in Christian guise. 



Islam is often able to supplement its borrow- 
ings from Christianity at the original 
sources, and when they have thus been 
deepened and purified, these adaptations 
are returned to Christianity in Muhamme- 
dan form. 

Christian scholasticism was first based 
upon fragments of Aristotle and chiefly in- 
spired by Neo-Platonism : through the 
Arabs it became acquainted with almost 
the whole of Aristotle and also with the 
special methods by which the Arabs ap- 
proach the problem of this philosophy. To 
give any detailed account of this influence 
would be to write a history of mediaeval 
philosophy in its relation to ecclesiastical 
doctrine, a task which I feel to be beyond 
my powers. I shall therefore confine myself 
to an abstract of the material points selected 
from the considerable detail which specialists 
upon the subject have collected : I consider 
that Arab influence during the first period 
is best explained by the new wealth of 


Greek thought which the Arabs appropriated 
and transmitted to Europe. These new 
discoveries were the attainments of Greece 
in the natural sciences and in logic : they 
extended the scope of dialectic and stimu- 
lated the rise of metaphysical theory : the 
latter, in combination with ecclesiastical 
dogma and Greek science, became such a 
system of thought as that expounded in the 
Summa of Thomas Aquinas. Philosophy 
remained the handmaid of religion and 
Arab influence first served only to complete 
the ecclesiastical philosophy of life. 

Eventually, however, the methods of 
interpretation and criticism, peculiar to the 
Arabs when dealing with Aristotle became of 
no less importance than the subject matter 
of their inquiries. This form of criticism 
was developed from the emphasis which 
Islam had long laid upon the value of 
wisdom, or recognition of the claims of 
reason. Muhammedan tradition is full of 
the praises of wisdom, which it also originally 


regarded as the basis of religion. Reason, 
however, gradually became an independent 
power : orthodoxy did not reject reason 
when it coincided with tradition, but under 
the influence of Aristotelianism, especially 
as developed by Averroes, reason became a 
power opposed to faith. The essential 
point of the doctrine was that truth was 
twofold, according to faith and according 
to reason. Any one who was subtle enough 
to recognise both kinds of truth could pre- 
serve his orthodoxy : but the theory con- 
tained one great danger, which was imme- 
diately obvious to the Christian church. 
The consequent struggle is marked by the 
constant connection of Arab ideas with the 
characteristic expressions of Christian feel- 
ing ; these again are connected with the 
outset of a new period, when the pioneers 
of the Renaissance liberate the West from 
the chains of Greek ecclesiastical classicism, 
from Oriental metaphysical religion and 
slowly pave the way for the introduction of 


Germanic ideals directly derived from true 
classicism. Not until that period does the 
West burst the bonds in which Orientalism 
had confined it. 

Christianity and Islam then stand upon 
an equal footing in respect both of intellec- 
tual progress and material wealth. But as 
the West emerges from the shadow-land of 
the middle ages the more definite becomes 
its superiority over the East. Western 
nations become convinced that the fetters 
which bind them were forged in the East, 
and when they have shaken off their chains, 
they discover their own physical and intel- 
lectual power. They go forth and create a 
new world, in which Orientalism finds but 
scanty room. 

The East, however, cannot break away 
from the theories of life and mind which 
grew in it and around it. Even at the pre- 
sent day the Oriental is swathed in medi- 
evalism. A journalist, for instance, however 
European his mode of life, will write leaders 


supported by arguments drawn from tradi- 
tion and will reason after the manner of 
the old scholasticism. But a change may 
well take place. Islam may gradually ac- 
quire the spirit as well as the form of 
modern Europe. Centuries were needed 
before mediaeval Christianity learned the 
need for submission to the new spirit. 
Within Christendom itself, it was non- 
Christian ideas which created the new 
movement, but these were completely amal- 
gamated with pre-existing Christianity. 
Thus, too, a Renaissance is possible in the 
East, not merely by the importation and 
imitation of European progress, but primar- 
ily by intellectual advancement at home 
even within the sphere of religion. 

Our task is drawing to its close. We have 
passed in review the interaction of Chris- 
tianity and Islam, so far as the two religions 
are concerned. It has also been necessary 
to refer to the history of the two civilisa- 


tions, for the reason that the two religions 
penetrate national life, a feature character- 
istic both of their nature and of the course 
of development which they respectively 
followed. This method of inquiry has 
enabled us to gain an idea of the rise and 
progress of Muhammedanism as such. 

An attempt to explain the points of con- 
tact and resemblance between the two 
religions naturally tends to obscure the 
differences between them. Had we de- 
voted our attention to Islam alone, without 
special reference to Christianity, these differ- 
ences, especially in the region of dogmatic 
theology, would have been more obvious. 
They are, however, generally well known. 
The points of connection are much more 
usually disregarded : yet they alone can 
explain the interchange of thought between 
the two mediaeval civilisations. The sur- 
prising fact is the amount of general similar- 
ity in religious theory between religions so 
fundamentally divergent upon points of 


dogma. Nor is the similarity confined to 
religious theory : when we realise that 
material civilisation, especially when Euro- 
pean medievalism was at its height, was 
practically identical in the Christian West 
and the Muhammedan East, we are justified 
in any reference to the unity of Eastern and 
Western civilisation. 

My statements may tend to represent 
Islam as a religion of no special originality ; 
at the same time, Christianity was but one 
of other influences operative upon it ; early 
Arabic, Zoroastrian, and Jewish beliefs in 
particular have left traces on its development. 
May not as much be said of Christianity ? 
Inquirers have seriously attempted to dis- 
tinguish Greek and Jewish influences as the 
component elements of Christianity : in any 
case, the extent of the elements original to 
the final orthodox system remains a matter 
of dispute. As we learn to appreciate 
historical connection and to probe beneath 
the surface of religions in course of develop- 


ment, we discover points of relationship and 
interdependency of which the simple be- 
liever never even dreams. The object of all 
this investigation is, in my opinion, one only: 
to discover how the religious experience of 
the founder of a faith accommodates itself 
to pre-existing civilisation, in the effort to 
make its influence operative. The eventual 
triumph of the new religion is in every case 
and at every time nothing more than a 
compromise : nor can more be expected, 
inasmuch as the religious instinct, though 
one of the most important influences in man, 
is not the sole determining influence upon 
his nature. 

Recognition of this fact can only be 
obtained at the price of a breach with 
ecclesiastical mode of thought. Premoni- 
tions of some such breach are apparent in 
modern Muhammedanism : for ourselves, 
they are accomplished facts. If I correctly 
interpret the signs of the times, a retro- 
grade movement in religious development 
1 08 


has now begun. The religion inspiring a 
single personality, has secured domination 
over the whole of life : family, society, and 
state have bowed beneath its power. Then 
the reaction begins : slowly religion loses 
its comprehensive force and as its history is 
learned, even at the price of sorrow, it 
slowly recedes within the true limits of its 
operation, the individual, the personality, 
in which it is naturally rooted. 



THE purpose of the present work has 
been to show not so much the identity 
of Christian and Muhammedan theories of 
life during the middle ages, as the parallel 
course of development common to both, 
and to demonstrate the fact that ideas could 
be transferred from one system to the other. 
Detail has been sacrificed to this general 
purpose. The brief outline of Muhammedan 
dogmatics and mysticism was necessary to 
complete the general survey of the question. 
Any one of these subjects, and the same is 
true as regards a detailed life of Muhammed, 
would require at least another volume of 
equal size for satisfactory treatment. 

The Oriental scholar will easily see where 
I base my statements upon my own 
researches and where I have followed 


Goldziher and Snouck. My chief source 
of information, apart from the six great 
books of tradition, has been the invalu- 
able compilation of Sojuti, the great 
Kanz el-'Ummal (Hyderabad, 1314). To 
those who do not read Arabic may be recom- 
mended the French translation of the 
Bocharl, of which two volumes are now 
published : El-Bokhari> les traditions islami- 
ques traduites . . . par O. Houdas and W. 
Margais. Paris, 1906. 

Of general works dealing with the ques- 
tions I have touched, the following, to which 
I owe a considerable debt, may be recom- 
mended : — 

J. Goldziher. Muhammedanische Studien, 
Halle, 1889 and following year. 

Die Religion des Islams (Kult. d. Gegenw., 

I, hi. 1). 
C. Snouck Hurgronje. De Islam (de Gids, 

1886, ns. 5 f.). 

Mekka. The Hague, il 


Une nouvelle biographie de Mohammed 
(Rev. Hist. Relig., 1894). 

Leone Caetani di Teano. Annali dell' 
Islam. Milan, 1905 and following years. 

F. Buhl. Muhammed's Liv. Copen- 
hagen, 1903. 

H. Grimme. Muhammed. Munich, 1904. 

J. Wellhausen. Das arabische Reich und 
sein Sturz. Berlin, 1902. 

Th. Noldeke. Geschichte des Qorans. 
Gottingen, i860. (New edition by F. 
Schwally in the press.) 

C. H. Becker. Die Kanzel im Kultus des 
alt en Islam. Giessen, 1906. 

Papyri. Schott-Reinhardt, I. Heidelberg, 

Th. W. Juynboll. Handleidung tot de 
kennis van de Mohammedaansche Wet. 
Leyden, 1903. 

T. J. de Boer. Geschichte der Philosophic 
in Islam. Stuttgart, 1901 (also an 
English edition). 



D. B. Macdonald. Development of Mus- 
lim Theology, Jurisprudence and Con- 
stitutional Theory. New York, 1903. 

A. Merx. Idee und Grundlinien einer 
allgemeinen Geschichte der Mystik. 
Heidelberg, 1893. 

A. Miiller. Der Islam im Morgen-und 
Abendland (Oncken's collection). 

W. Riedel. Die Kirchenrechtsquellen des 
Patriarchats Alexandrien. Leipsic, 1900. 

G. Bruns and E. Sachau. Syrisch-romis- 
ches Rechtsbuch. Leipsic, 1880. 

E. Sachau. Syrische Rechtsbiicher, I. 
Berlin, 1907. 

E. Zachariae v. Lingenthal. Geschichte 
des griechisch - romischen Rechts. 3rd 
ed., Berlin, 1892. 

H. v. Eicken. Geschichte und System 
der mittelalterlichen Weltanschauung. 
Stuttgart, 1886. 

W. Windelband. Lehrbuck der Ges- 
chichte der Philosophic 4th ed., Tubin- 
gen, 1907. 
1 113 


C. Baeumker und G. v. Hertling. Beitrage 
zur Geschichte der Philosophie des 
Mittelalters (collected papers). 

G. Gothein. Ignatius von Loyola und die 
Gegenreformation. Halle, 1895. 

In conclusion, I may mention two works, 
which deal with the subject of this volume, 
but from a different standpoint : — 

H. P. Smith. The Bible and Islam (The 

Ely Lectures for 1897). 
W. A. Shedd. Islam and the Oriental 

Churches (Philadelphia, 1904). 


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